Magnesium and Your Health

Magnesium is a mineral that plays a big role in making your body work right. More than 300 chemical reactions inside you depend on the mineral.

Without it, your muscles can't move the way they're supposed to. Your nerves won't send and receive messages. Magnesium also keeps your heart rhythm steady, blood sugar levels balanced, and your joint cartilage healthy. It helps your body make protein, bone, and DNA.

Your body doesn't make magnesium on its own. The amount you need depends on your age and gender. If you're a woman age 19 or older, you need 310 milligrams (mg) a day -- 350 mg if you're pregnant. If you're an adult man under age 30, you need 400 mg a day. After 30, men need 420 mg.

It's always best to get magnesium from food, but you can also get it from multivitamins and supplements. Too much, though, can cause nausea, stomach cramps, or diarrhea. In extreme cases, it could cause an irregular heartbeat or cardiac arrest.

Don't take a magnesium supplement if you have certain conditions, such as:

If you get too much magnesium from food, your kidneys will remove it through your urine. Your kidneys will also balance out your magnesium levels if you don't get enough of it for a little while.

Certain conditions like Crohn's disease, celiac disease, type 2 diabetes, alcoholism, and chronic diarrhea can give your body a long-term shortage of magnesium. Common symptoms include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.

Leafy green vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and fish are the best ways to keep healthy levels of magnesium in your body. Shop with these specifics in mind:

Fish: Top Source of Magnesium

These types of fish are swimming in the mineral magnesium:

  • Chinook salmon
  • Halibut
  • Atlantic mackerel
  • Atlantic pollock

Vegetables and Fruits That Have Magnesium

Prickly pear has a lot of magnesium, but it isn't the easiest food to find or prepare.

Focus instead on these fruits and vegetables that have a lot of magnesium when you cook them and plenty of other nutrients, too:

  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Edamame
  • Tamarind
  • Potato with skin
  • Okra

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Whole-Grain Products With Magnesium

Look for breakfast cereals fortified with magnesium and these whole grains:

  • Bran cereals
  • Wheat germ (toasted)
  • Quinoa (cooked)

Legumes, Nuts, and Seeds With Magnesium

Meat and poultry don't have a lot of magnesium, but you can find it in soy, cheese, and yogurt.

These meat alternatives are also good magnesium sources:

  • Black-eyed peas (cooked)
  • Tempeh (cooked)
  • Soy nuts
  • Cooked beans (black, lima, navy, pinto, chickpeas)
  • Tofu
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Flaxseed
  • Peanut butter

 

Magnesium in Your Water

Depending on the source and brand, your water may contain a small amount of magnesium:

  • Tap water
  • Mineral water
  • Bottled water

Magnesium-Enhanced Products

You can find magnesium in supplements and vitamins. Certain food products are sometimes enriched with magnesium, but you need to look at the label to be sure. Some examples are:

Keep in mind that some medicines may keep your body from absorbing magnesium, such as:

  • Bisphosphonates for osteoporosis
  • Antibiotics
  • High doses of zinc

If you take water pills or some medicines for acid reflux or peptic ulcers for a long time, they can lower your magnesium levels, too.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on September 23, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Harvard Health Publishing: "What you should know about magnesium."

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements: "Magnesium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals," "Magnesium: Fact Sheet for Consumers."

University of Kansas Medical Center: "The Benefits of Magnesium."

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, EatRight.org: "What is Magnesium?"

Mayo Clinic: "Myasthenia gravis."

Dietitians of Canada: "Food Sources of Magnesium."

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